Wednesday, April 6th, 2011
All Eternals Deck
The Mountain Goats and Megafaun at The Opera House in Toronto
Frank YangI’ve wondered a number of times in the past few years if John Darnielle even knew he was neglecting Toronto again. It took him more than a decade of operating as principal of The Mountain Goats to come to Toronto – his appearance at Lee’s Palace in May 2005 was his first visit ever – and after a few years of regular shows, neither his itinerary for 2008’s Heretic Pride nor 2009’s The Life Of The World To Come or last year’s Extra Lens side project saw fit to make their way up here. They did make it through twice in support of Get Lonely, but that was still three and a half years ago – four if, like me, you only went to the the first one.
A little ways into Sunday’s night’s show at The Opera House, he did indeed admit that he didn’t realize that it had been so long and while I don’t recall if he apologized outright, if his intention was to make it up to us in song… well, mission accomplished. The goodness started with the opening act, fellow North Carolinians Megafaun whom I’d been fortunate enough to see last year. The trio took their “warm up” duties seriously, doing their very best to get the audience roused and excited for the show to come with their spirited country-gospel-blues brew and genial down-home charm. Not many bands would offer their spare room to fans who come visit them in Raleigh and even fewer would actually mean it – but I’m pretty sure Brad Cook did. Want to see an immensely talented trio of musicians who just love what they do? Go see Megafaun.
The cult of Mountain Goats fans – who were out in force on this evening – have let me down as I’ve as yet been unable to track down a set list for the show. I’ve been a Goats fan since Tallahassee but don’t have nearly the encyclopaedic knowledge of John Darnielle’s body of work to try and compile a list of everything that was aired on Sunday night. But sufficed to say that their epic-length – we’re talking ninety minutes plus over a full set, six-song second set and single-song encore – set drew from all points of The Mountain Goats repertoire, from the just-released All Eternals Deck and back as far as 1995’s Sweden. Hell, maybe they went back as far as Darnielle’s 1994 debut Zopilote Machine; I don’t know, there was a good number of songs I didn’t recognize.
Even some of the songs I did know, I didn’t instantly recognize. For while The Mountain Goats have essentially been a full band since Jon Wurster joined Darnielle and bassist Peter Hughes for Heretic Pride in 2008, I had never seen them live as anything but an acoustic guitar-and-bass duo. And here they were as a quartet – keyboardist/guitarist Yuval Semo rounded out the live lineup – with a wealth of sounds and tempos and textures at their disposal; so very unlike the Mountain Goats I remember and so very very wonderful. Only the most steadfast purist would argue they sounded better as a duo or solo, and probably also wish that Darnielle would ditch the studio and go back to recording on a boom box. So when I say “steadfast purist”, I really mean “batshit looney”.
High fidelity Mountain Goats sound amazing and while Darnielle has always been an entertaining performer, seeing him really cut loose as a – dare I say – rock frontman is a revelation. And though (bare) feet did go up on the stage monitors at the show’s end, he’s hardly become a collection of cliched stage moves. As much a crucial part of the magic of the evening as the music was his between-song banter, delivered in his distinctive clipped cadence and covering topics such as why he wore no shoes on stage (inspired by Amy Grant), why he almost put rocks in his ears and his inability at age 15 to break up with his girlfriend honourably, amongst many others. Really, trying to summarize everything that made this show memorable would require pretty much a minute-by-minute accounting of the evening, and that’d be ridiculous. All I can say is that if you want to know what a live Mountain Goats show is like, see them the next time they come to town. And hope it’s not another three and a half years before that happens.
The Baltimore Sun has an interview with John Darnielle, NYC Taper is sharing recordings of two of the Mountain Goats shows in New York last week and Spin welcomed the band for an acoustic video session.
Photos: The Mountain Goats, Megafaun @ The Opera House – April 3, 2011
MP3: The Mountain Goats – “The Age Of Kings”
MP3: The Mountain Goats – “Damn Those Vampires”
MP3: The Mountain Goats – “Tyler Lambert’s Grave”
MP3: The Mountain Goats – “Genesis 3:23”
MP3: The Mountain Goats – “Sax Rohmer #1”
MP3: The Mountain Goats – “New Monster Avenue”
MP3: The Mountain Goats – “Woke Up New”
MP3: The Mountain Goats – “Lion’s Teeth”
MP3: The Mountain Goats – “Palmcorder Yanja”
MP3: The Mountain Goats – “No Children”
MP3: The Mountain Goats – “Baboon”
MP3: The Mountain Goats – “Family Happiness”
MP3: Megafaun – “Volunteers”
MP3: Megafaun – “The Fade”
MP3: Megafaun – “Kaufman’s Ballad”
MP3: Megafaun – “The Process”
Video: The Mountain Goats – “Ezekiel 7 and The Permanent Efficacy of Grace”
Video: The Mountain Goats – “Sax Rohmer #1”
Video: The Mountain Goats – “Woke Up New”
Video: The Mountain Goats – “This Year”
Video: Megafaun – “Carolina Days”
Video: Megafaun – “Impressions Of The Past”
Video: Fleet Foxes – “Grown Ocean”
All five Terminal 5 recordings that My Morning Jacket are releasing leading up to the premiere of a new song from Circuital are up for grabs. A new song from Circuital will be revealed on April 12 and the album will be released on May 31. The band will be at The Kool Haus to play these songs for you and more on July 11.
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “Butch Cassidy” (live at Terminal 5)
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “The Way That He Sings” (live at Terminal 5)
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “One Big Holiday” (live at Terminal 5)
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “It Beats 4 U” (live at Terminal 5)
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “Smokin’ From Shootin'” (live at Terminal 5)
Will Johnson, following a stint as drummer for Monsters Of Folk, returns to his own works with the release of a new Centro-Matic record – Candidate Waltz will be out on June 21 and if you’re not familiar with Centro-Matic, Will Johnson has taken measures to address that via Twitter – namely a sampler compilation of tracks from every Centro-Matic album.
The Rosebuds have wrapped a new album and will release Loud Planes Fly Low on June 7 – check out the first MP3 from the record.